Zootopia: Film Review
Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Jenny Slate, JK Simmons, Nate Torrence
Director: Byron Howard, Rich Moore
Mixing anti-racism, anti-segregation, self-worth and belief, and horror into a family friendly mismatched buddy / cop film while keeping it entertaining may sound like a tall order, but Zootopia manages it with ease.
It's the story of Judy Hopps (a likeable Goodwin), a plucky and tenacious bunny who never stops believing in her dream of becoming a cop, despite coming from the hick town of BunnyBurrow. Even with her father urging her to give up on her dreams and never try anything so you don't fail, Hopps makes it through police academy and is dispatched to Zootopia, a city where predators like tigers, lions live alongside their prey in peace.
But Hopps faces discrimination in the Hill Street Blues style precinct and is given parking permit duty, rather than the chance to help the investigation into 14 missing predators. However, when she discovers a lead that's connected a to street-smart sly fox Nick (brilliantly realised by Jason Bateman), she's like a rabbit with a carrot and won't let go - no matter how wide ranging the conspiracy appears to be.
The key to a great animation is a cross-generational appeal.
On the one hand, it should keep the kids engaged with bright animation, the simple relay of various messages and keep it short to ensure their attention spans don't wander. Equally, the adults in the audience have to be satiated too.
Zootopia over-delivers on both fronts, weaving a story that's as smart and earnest as it is brilliantly executed.
With knowing pop culture nods (Breaking Bad, The Godfather) and a superbly realised world that feels alive, natural and over-flowing with life, Zootopia is an intelligent joy from beginning to end.
From a savvy script that plays on words to a sequence in a sloth-manned DMV, the whole thing is anchored in animated love and slathered with an under-the-surface political message that rings true with its You can do it ethos to galvanise the kiddies.
There's an idea of the shattering of innocence too, with Hopps discovering the world isn't quite as chipper as she thought it would be and how small town mentality can be ground down by big city cynicism. Not to mention brief didactic moments surrounding inclusiveness as well as segregation (one sequence in a cafe reeks of the societal perceptions that swept the No Coloureds ethos of America), and of stereotyping and dismissing others.
These are weighty political mentions and ideas in this utopian paradise, but all of which sit alongside a film that's as colourfully and breathlessly executed as Zootopia is. Never once does it lose sight of the fact that it's there to entertain.
Goodwin and Bateman are the perfect foils, with Goodwin's eternally optimistic Hopps sitting in clever juxtaposition to Nick's dismissively cynical, yet relatably human fox. Their anthropomorphic mismatched buddy schtick is cleverly realised and add to the three dimensional feel of the Zootopia universe (one which practically demands further examination).
Smart enough to not talk down to the kids, and wise enough to appeal to the adults, Zootopia is nothing short of an animated delight, a cracker of a Disney family film that's as smart about tackling prejudice and ignorance as it is determined to mete out its moral message without ever distancing itself from delivering entertainment of the highest quality.